WestConn is now home to The Connecticut Center for School Safety and Crisis Preparation. Their mission is to assist public schools in preventing and responding to traumatic events. Center Director Amery Bernhardt says this is a response to a growing need for safety and mental health support programs. Bernhardt says the center will work with leaders in the state departments of education, public health, emergency management, and children and families to develop and provide services. Regional crisis teams are currently being set up.
Professional development in school safety planning, research on school violence prevention will also be provided.
A $2 million state grant will fund this program for two years. Center officials estimate needing $6 million to fully staff the center and develop more service programs. The center’s staff will include at least five school safety consultants who have the expertise to review school safety and crisis plans and provide feedback to strengthen those plans.
WCSU Interim President Paul Beran, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, and Danbury state Senator Julie Kushner attended the opening event.
Connecticut State Colleges and Universities President Terrence Cheng says this community and this state know all too well the importance and worthiness of investing in school safety. As the 10th anniversary of Sandy Hook approaches, Cheng opened the doors to a center that he says will be an invaluable resource to better prepare school districts and K-12 educators to keep classrooms as safe as possible.
Center founder Professor Gabriel Lomas says the Center came from recommendations in a 2014 report by the Office of the Child Advocate about 12/14. He and his colleagues formed a regional crisis team for area schools in 2012, to provide a platform of shared training and the ability to provide mutual aid in a disaster. Lomas says this new facility will serve as a school crisis and safety resource to all public school districts in the state, and provide training and technical assistance on student resilience, school crisis, school trauma and school safety.